I've been an online shopper for quite some time now. I think my first ever purchase after getting my first credit card was done online. Over at least 7 years I thought I'd become quite savvy and wary of certain transactions and quite experienced. But, as life does, there's always something that comes along to challenge that.
So, never having any major dramas in the past - maybe some delayed deliveries and things like that, I went ahead and purchased some car parts from Europe (part of the joys of owning a European built car in Australia where local prices are way overpriced for similar items). The retailer was well known on the forums I perused and came recommended, plus they offered the best price for the parts I was after. There were only a few stories of note where assistance from the owner of the shop based in Germany were slightly negative, but overall, I figured I was in for a(nother) positive experience.
Things went well, the transaction went through (using PayPal) just fine and tracking numbers were provided. Within a couple of weeks, in late June, the items had arrived - and then things went pear shaped.
The items were a pair and sadly, one of them had been damaged - either in transit or perhaps even at manufacture. There was a certain 'fragile' element about the item and the standard packaging provided by Ford Genuine Parts just wouldn't stand up to the sort of torture they would endure in the journey from Germany to Australia. But, you'd have to think that several other buyers must have had successful transactions as they had bought the same items without problem from the same store in the past. Anyway, one of the pair was damaged internally and was unusable as a result. On contacting the seller, they informed me to lodge a dispute with the delivery company. I originally presumed this to be DHL, but it turned out to be Australia Post.
The Auspost claims process can take some time - and so it did. During this time, I enquired with Paypal as well and called on their buyer protection. They froze the funds, much to the annoyance of the seller who became quite irate and abrupt in email conversation. I will credit PayPal and their staff in the fact that they were very friendly and helpful all along the way, as opposed to Auspost's who were reluctant to help and less than optimistic about my chances for a successful claim due to the packaging of the item.
Four weeks pass, we're now in August and Australia Post knocks back the claim, but thankfully PayPal rules in my favour, offering a refund for return of both items. But there's a catch - there will be no compensation for the postage costs incurred to send them back.
I confer with other members on the forum who agree that returning the items as per PayPal's instruction is the best way to go - even with the postal charges, the better outcome is to get back what I can. So I head to Australia Post to return the items. The postal component for the items to be shipped from Germany to Australia was about $60AUD plus insurance. The cost to return the items to Germany? Close to $300AUD! This was partially because the two items, while they arrived together as a single unit, had to be returned as two separate items due to Australia Post's maximum parcel size rules.
I went through with it. Thinking I would be compensated appropriately and all of this would soon be over.
Upon sending proof of return of the items to PayPal, I got my refund but things weren't all smiles. For the original transaction I paid 585.50 Euros, which was $759.14AUD at the time in June. Come August, 585.50 Euros had depreciated to $686.42AUD - which is what I received. Subtract the near $300 postal fees and you can see why I wasn't smiling.
I dispute this with PayPal, but, after two emails I merely receive the same party line from them that I received a refund of the payment amount - which was 585.50 Euros. They did not comprehend that I was out of pocket due to depreciation of the Euro currency over the months.
But, this saga wasn't over yet. Even with tracking applied, the items took their time to find their destination. They were even showing up as being delivered to different locations and this continued the rather irate emails from the seller. Things continued to escalate when he only received one of the pair back and asked me to claim with Australia Post, yet again, for the missing item - which was held up somewhere in Germany, nowhere near his address. After much to and fro, Australia Post located the item, determined the packaging had been damaged in transit and delivered it to the recipient - who then complained about the damage incurred. So I had to deal with Australia Post yet again - and, after a few weeks, now in October, determined there was no case for compensation as the items were not appropriately packed (they were as I received them, in Ford's minimalist and insufficient packaging) - even after admitting that the box was soaked with perfume - how are we supposed to protect items against that sort of thing?
The saga ends after contacting the recipient about the development and informing him that Auspost won't compensate. I waited for their reply but got none. I can only assume they gave up or had enough. I even wonder whether the item was damaged at all, or if he was trying to claim compensation back for the one item that was damaged originally. I guess I will never know. I figured I would wait three months for a reply before clearing out the records of the transaction and the paperwork involved with it. So here I am in January, writing about it.
It was a horrible part of the year. Always looming over my head as to what would go wrong next. I'd go to sleep wondering what email I would have to face when I woke up, I'd wake up wondering what email I'd have to face and I got anxious every time I saw a new email arrive in my inbox. That has gone away now with several holidays to ease my mind and the fact it's been over three months since I last contacted them. I put that particular modification on hold for some time but recently managed to source the parts from somewhere else without problem.
I have deliberately stayed away from naming the company involved. While I had a bad experience, there are many others who have had successful transactions. I just wanted to write about how wary we all have to be with online transactions and researching who we are purchasing from. If I had my time again, I probably would have held onto the damaged item and tried to purchase a replacement for it - it would have cost me less in the end as opposed to how much money I lost due to Australia Post's exorbitant postage fees and PayPal's pocketing of the difference due to currency fluctuations.
Do I still use Australia Post and PayPal? Yes. Because in Australia we have no other option for postage and with our eBay accounts, we have to use PayPal by default. But this experience has definitely made me aware of what to expect should something like this happen again - and I will look at different alternatives should something this unfortunate happen again.